PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s happened to many people, including a local woman, consumers getting caught up in a “Free Wrinkle Cream Scam.”
The local woman, Loretta Ventura ended up in a major financial mess because of it. The situation left her at the end of her rope.
“It’s not free, Marty! It’s not free!” Loretta told KDKA’s Marty Griffin.
Loretta got caught up in trolling the internet, looking for so-called freebies. There are thousands of them out there, hundreds of sites promising free samples of wrinkle creams and beauty products.
“Free sample, you had to pay for them to send it to you,” said Loretta. “You had to give them your card, that’s what I did.”
She ended up on the Coal Cosmetic website. The claim: “Click any order button, and you will get a free trial. Just pay the shipping and fee.”
The website lays it out for consumers. It says Price – $0.00, Shipping & Handling – $4.95, then taken 40 percent off, for a Total of $2.95.
She filled out the information in the credit card area and placed her order.
“I find out that this cream that was ‘free,’ I had a contract with them,” Loretta said.
It’s a trap thousands of people have fallen into. She did not read the really fine print at the bottom of the offer. That fine print says that by placing an order, you “agree to enrollment in the Customer Preferred Program.” It goes on to say the program charges $94.19 on the 17th day.
Bottom line, consumers have a little more than two weeks to call and cancel or they are stuck, and that’s the situation Loretta found herself in.
Loretta: “So first thing you know, they’re taking $96.36 out of my account I did not want.”
Griffin: “Every month?”
Loretta: “Every month, three months.”
That’s when Get Marty got involved. Loretta’s email saying, “I closed my bank account. They are going after my new bank account. Please help.”
KDKA immediately reached out to the company. We demanded they take Loretta off of their list. The company did that.
Loretta: “How could they have valid documentation?”
Griffin: “So, even the bank’s caught in a bad place.”
Documents from her bank said: “Dollar Bank is unable is unable to assist you in recovering these funds because the merchant provided documentation showing the transaction is valid.”
Loretta was out more than $300.
“So, right away the bank took away my debit card and gave me a new one to stop this,” said Loretta.
Dollar Bank also disputed the charges with the company. They got the company to reimburse some of the funds to Loretta’s account, and they told us they will also reimburse any fees Loretta lost in the transaction.
“I’m very glad Dollar Bank was very good to me,” she said.
In the end, Loretta says she learned her lesson, a simple one.
“Nothing is free. The only thing. You’re born, you pay to be born. When you die, you pay to die. So, everybody out there, nothing is free,” she said.
The scam is called “Negative Option.” You must know you are agreeing to pay for a product every month before you buy it.
Last year, the FTC fined nearly 20 skincare companies more than $70 million.
If you’d like Marty to help you solve your problem, email him at GetMarty@kdka.com.